NASA’s giant Space Launch System Moon rocket, topped with an unmanned astronaut capsule, is set to begin an hour-long crawl on its launchpad Tuesday night ahead of the behemoth’s maiden test flight later this month.
The 322-foot-tall (98-metre-tall) rocket is scheduled to launch its first mission into space – without any humans – on August 29. It will be an important, long-delayed demonstration trip to the Moon aboard NASA’s Artemis. program, the United States’ multi-billion dollar effort to return humans to the lunar surface as an exercise in future missions to Mars.
The Space Launch System, which has been led by the Boeing Company in development over the past decade, is scheduled to leave its assembly building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday (0100 GMT on Wednesday) and four – The mile-long (6-km) trek to its launchpad. At less than a mph (1.6 kph), the rollout takes about 11 hours.
Atop the rocket is NASA’s Orion astronaut capsule, a pod built by Lockheed Martin. It is designed to be separated from rockets in space, which carry humans into the Moon’s vicinity, and to rendezvous with a separate spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the lunar surface.
But for the Aug. 29 mission, called Artemis 1, the Orion capsule will launch atop the Space Launch System without humans and orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth for an ocean splashdown 42 days later.
If bad launch weather or a minor technical issue triggers a delay from August 29, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has backup launch dates for September 2 and September 5.
© Thomson Reuters 2022